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Saturday, July 28, 2001

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Police worry over unquiet campuses

By Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar

When there is no student politics in schools, why do we have politics in universities? This is the question which instantly comes to mind whenever some politics-related violence takes place in any of the colleges.

Probably the reason behind the student politics is that they provide the various parties a platform to prepare their cadres. Otherwise, one sees little reason in having politics in institutions where studies should hold eminence over all else. Any other argument will hold little water for if the premier institutes, such as the Indian Institutes of Technology and even colleges such as St. Stephen's College can do without student politics, there is no reason why others cannot.

The idea may offend those who believe that student politics strengthens the democratic fabric of the country. But they should also realise that it is doing immense harm to academic schedules. For, as one sees in Delhi, after the humdrum surrounding the admissions and ragging is over, a fair part of the year is lost to electioneering.

And what purpose do these elections serve. Well, they only seem to benefit outsiders who get to move around campuses in the guise of campaigners. Then the flow of outside money also results in `backdoor admissions', which in a way provide an opportunity to the student leaders to have a `refund' of their election expenses. And various student funds also fall prey to their greed.

But the most disturbing aspect of student politics is violence. While a lot of untoward incidents take place during election time, the rumblings are felt over a long period of time. Police officials say unless something is done by the academics to contain student politics, it will be difficult to check violence both on and off the campus.

Another area of concern for the police are the hostels, which have on numerous occasions been found to be used by students involved in criminal activities. With police finding it hard to gain entry into these `safe houses', quite often they have played unwilling hosts to the bad elements.

This past week, Delhi had a fair number of cases of violence involving college students. On July 20 a first-year student of Deshbandhu College was shot at and two of his friends were injured by a group of boys -- who had come armed with hockey sticks -- inside the college premises at Kalkaji in South Delhi.

The prime accused, Vinod Pal, was found to be a former student of the college. He had come with three of his associates and following an argument with Vivek Bidhuri, convenor of South Delhi unit of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, and Sanjeev Bidhuri, a first-year student of Deshbandhu College (Evening), attacked them with hockey sticks. As a grand finale to the assault, Vinod shot at Sanjeev from close range. Leaving the college students panic-stricken, the culprits fled.

It was later revealed that apart from Sanjeev, none of the persons involved were students of the college and were actually `trespassers'.

As if this attack was not gruesome enough, the following day the mutilated body of a 20-year-old youth, identified as Sahkat Alam, a first-year student of Deshbandu College, was found dumped at Khoda forest in East Delhi. Sahkat, who was apparently close to a Member of Parliament, was reportedly killed over a political rivalry.

A native of Araria in Bihar, he had been living in Govindpuri in South Delhi. After his final examinations, Sahkat had left for his native place. On July 16 he started back for Delhi and on reaching here checked into a Paharganj hotel along with two youths, identified as Naseem and Nazeem.

The three attended a meeting organised by a party floated by a Member of Parliament from Bihar and stayed in the hotel for three days. The police suspect that Sahkat was stabbed and shot by the other youths while he was in an inebriated state.

Close on the heels of this murder, the Delhi police was faced with an intriguing situation in which a youth stabbed another and then took shelter in the room of his friend at Sabarmati Hostel in Jawaharlal Nehru University.

The accused, Naveen, had probably thought that the police would find it difficult to raid the place. But he was picked up by South Delhi police and booked for a murderous assault on Sumit on the NCERT campus.

While this case refreshed the memory of the recovery of some weapons from a Ramjas College hostel room a few years ago, it also reminded of the encounter of notorious gangster, Brij Mohan Tyagi, who was gunned down by the Delhi police while carrying posters of a candidate who was contesting the Delhi University Student's Union election.

These incidents are a gory reminder of the threats which lie beneath student politics. It remains to be seen what action, if any, is initiated to prevent such occurrences in the future and ensure a clean campus life.

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